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Father’s Day Blues

fathers-day-300x300If you’re in North America, you’ll know today is Father’s Day.

While this is a joyous occasion for many families, there are others for whom Father’s Day brings grief, indifference or painful memories.

Stemming from a quick peek at Facebook today, I see that many are happy (me included) to reflect heartfelt wishes to fathers who are present and also tender words for those fathers who are no longer around – both literally and figuratively.

For children living with divorce, adoption, death or who are estranged from their dads, occasions like this spark sadness. Many will be spend today celebrating or reflecting on good times with loving fathers yet many others will reflect on “what could have been” or “what should be.”

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

Happiness is A Warm Furball

334734_10151049749272387_1404699166_oToday my partner and I ventured down to The Beach (or Beaches) – a gorgeous, popular strip of boardwalk, beachfront and shops along Lake Ontario.

The weather was perfect for people-watching, froyo, listening to music, walking the long stretch of boardwalk and petting the myriad dogs who accompanied their owners on this beautiful sunny day.

Canines of all kinds were in abundance – dachshunds, German Shepherds, dalmatian puppies, golden retrievers – you name it, we saw ’em. As much as I’d love to get a dog and one day I will – I’ve already promised my kids – we currently have a fantastic, clever cat whom everyone adores.

Not only are pets fun and playful (and I lot of work of course), studies show they’re good for both children’s and adults’ mental health.

Image from Animal Planet

Image from Animal Planet

While it seems counter-intuitive,  the dander and bacteria from pets can actually help babies develop their immune systems.

By exposing children to various pet allergens, some allergies and diseases like asthma can be avoided.

Owning a pet also breeds empathy, compassion, love, friendship and  key social skills.

What does the special furball, fish or ferrat in your life do for your family? Can you imagine life without Fido?

Idle hands?

Busy bee“The majority prove their worth by keeping busy. A busy life is the nearest thing to a purposeful life.”

I had already decided to write about our culture of “busy-ness”  today and then spotted the quote above. Rather ironic when the focus of this post is the complete opposite idea.

Earlier this week, a colleague posted a link to this memorable New Yorker article about “Mr. Ravioli.” It’s a clever, insightful piece about a young girl’s imaginary friend; I encourage you to read it when you can take some time to absorb the tale

In fact, I realize this topic is coming full circle as the school year comes to a screaming halt. You see, this year, due to work flexibility and our kids’ ages, we decided to leave more gaps in their summer schedule.

When our children were younger and both parents were working full-time, we would either enroll our two kids in day camps, hire a nanny or babysitter, go on vacation or some combination of all three.  This year, they’ll both attend two or three weeks of camp but, as of now, have a lot of free time on their calendars.

I’m thinking (perhaps naively) that flexibility during the summer will allow more time to read, play with friends and wander around outdoors. It may also cause less stress for parents who don’t have to arrange pick ups, drop offs and lunches/swim suits/towels/dry clothes.

Careful of the admonishment recently doled out about overly zealous helicopter parents preventing optimal physical health in children, I’m hoping that a solo walk to the park or to friends’ homes will do the kids – and my bottom line – some good. (By the way, I’m not rolling my eyes in response to the report that finds children need more fresh air and exercise. However, I am leery of putting more pressure on parents who are already feeling all kinds of stress.)

How do you feel about our culture of busy-ness? Do you think parents and kids are overly scheduled and under creative? Are you able to give your children some freedom over the summer to explore their own interests? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Virtual Sunshine Part Deux

Zen parenting

Zen and the art of good deeds

In January 2013 I shared this post about virtual sunshine – offering readers links to positive, and inspiring blogs.

I just checked to make sure the links were all still viable and they are.

Even though summer has barely arrived, it’s a good time to get kids thinking about how to do their best and be productive and charitable over the break and into next year.

Sometimes when I need motivation and inspiration in order to dive into work or other endeavours, videos and sites like these help me remember that I’m really just a tiny grain of rice in the massive casserole dish we call life. (: If we can all spread a little happiness each day, then we’re doing a good job.

Day 14

Water lily2It’s Day 14 of the 2015 Blogathon. For those of you who aren’t frequent posters, blogging every day for a month is tough.

The first few days  are fun: “Wahoo! Look at me I’m blogging.”

However, days 5-30 are more difficult. Advance planning (and I should have done more of that) certainly helps but working in daily posts around other gigs, writing projects, kids and life is tricky. In any case, I’m determined to blog every day this month and, so, it shall be done.

Weathering the Storm: After a perfect sunny summer day yesterday where we helped to plan and then enjoy our street sale and potluck dinner party, Mother Nature has decided it’s now time to go back to dreary rain, cool breezes and clouds.

While I’m not one of those people who loves SUPER HOT summers, a few extra days of sunshine wouldn’t kill anyone either.

As most of us are aware, long periods without light can lead to depression, moodiness and lethargy. However, there are ways for adults and children to combat cloudy moods:

Luckily, I’m in the right frame of mind to enjoy this quiet, breezy day. It’s perfect for naps, movies and meditation. Om.

Don’t Cry Out Loud

3738_98280902386_5922513_nYears ago, my cousin told me a story about her friends and their new baby.

She and her husband were visiting the couple and their newborn. The adults were downstairs in the living room and the baby was crying upstairs in her crib or bassinette. The child’s father wanted to go soothe the baby. However, the mother “forbid” the father from going to the baby because they were “putting her on a schedule“.

My cousin explained how uncomfortable and emotionally difficult it was to hear the little baby crying and how the father desperately wanted to go soothe the child (his instinct I’m sure).

Even though that situation has nothing to do with me, I still think about it from time to time. Newborn human babies only have crying, laughing, and other basic sounds as their communication tools. They need their parents or other adults to respond to their needs as they’re basically helpless without support.

Further, avoiding your baby because he’s crying or distressed can be emotionally draining for parents and especially damaging for the child. In fact, studies now show that not coming to your baby’s aid when he or she is crying, may cause brain damage and severe distress. While that news may be hard to hear, it’s very important to be attentive to your baby.

Excessive crying can be extremely stressful and I’m not one for guilt-tripping parents; we  all have enough on our minds and  often feel conflicted trying to decipher whether we’re making the right decisions for our children. However, instincts and common sense should always dictate.

You’re Getting Sleepy

sunsetEarlier today, I posted a status update on Facebook about feeling like “a zombie in the sunshine” after experiencing a terrible night’s sleep. (Full disclosure: I was sleeping with my daughter who was tossing and turning though really I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times.)

As we all know, sleep can be a challenge for adults and children alike. According to the Better Sleep Council, toddlers, children and teens need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep to stay healthy, babies need 16 and adults require 8. Lack of sleep can cause disturbances in mood, behaviour, learning ability, friendships, processing, relationships and work.

My status update received about a dozen replies and lots of advice. Suggestions included everything from taking magnesium (which I do) to using essential oils (wild orange on the big toes – who knew?!) to listening to relaxing, sleep-inducing music.

I’m a big fan of essential oils. We’ve used them in the diffuser; mixed with coconut oil for stomach aches, headaches and cramps; and I even ingested a tiny dollop of oregano oil when I had a cold. (It worked but it was one of the worst tastes I’ve ever experienced.)

For years, I (and sometimes my children) have used a white noise machine to block out extraneous noises and mimic sounds from the womb. It works like a charm, especially for those who are light sleepers.

Still, no matter what tips and tricks make for decent slumber, I’d love to have consistently good restful sleep. It makes life so much easier.

What’s your experience with sleep? Are you and your kids naturally good sleepers? If not, what’s your best tip? Please share. I’d be ever so grateful.